Benjamin Franklyn famously said, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

On 18 May, the House of Commons passed a new immigration bill. The purpose of the bill is to introduce a new points based immigration system for the UK.  Whilst the UK already operates under a points based system, the system did not previously apply to EU Nationals. Under the new legislation, EU Nationals will be required to apply under the points based system and obtain a UK visa should they wish to migrate to and work in the UK.

The immediate impact of the new legislation on UK companies is that employers will be required to hold a Sponsor License in order to sponsor EU workers for roles with their businesses from 1 January 2021. A recent analysis of government statistics has suggested that just 2% of UK employers, i.e. 31,392 business out of approximately 6m+ UK businesses, currently hold a Sponsor License. Whilst previously businesses could rely on freedom of movement to hire EU Nationals without the need for a work visa, all EU Nationals entering the UK from 1 January 2021 will have been required to obtain a UK visa in order to have permission to work.

As stated above, as many as 98% of UK businesses potentially lack the required Sponsor License which is necessary to sponsor migrant workers for specific roles in the UK. Those that wish to continue to hire foreign nationals, now including EU Nationals, for roles with their companies will need to begin the process of applying for a Sponsor License soon in order to ensure that they can hire them from 1 January. Employers should act soon to ensure they are prepared when the changes come into effect.

This change in policy should not affect EU Nationals who have already been resident in the UK prior to 1 January and obtained settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those Nationals will continue to be able to rely on the rights they held prior to Brexit and do not need to obtain additional visas to work and live in the UK.

The immigration bill has also raised further concerns for employers, namely:

  • Low skilled” workers are set to be excluded under new immigration policy, meaning employers that employ migrants from abroad will have to look elsewhere to fill low skilled roles.
  • There have been concerns raised about worker shortages in the care, construction, retail and healthcare sectors as these roles are unlikely to meet the minimum skill levels and salaries limit required. However we would ask that businesses look at the Standard Occupational codes (SOC) to check what occupations they can sponsor migrants into as they may be surprised as to what roles are covered. We regularly advise employers in relation to who can be sponsored and who cannot.

We would point out that a lower salary cap means some sponsors who were previously unable to afford the high minimum salaries for a migrant employee may now find themselves more affordable.

Should you have any concerns about the new immigration legislation’s impact on your business, or wish to enquire about applying for a UK Sponsor License, please get in touch with us.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.

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